Ar dtús tá mé lán sásta agus bródúil a bheith anseo inniu ag caint faoi Óglach George Mc Brearty.
First of all I am delighted and honoured to be asked here today to speak at this monument to our friend and comrade George McBrearty. I’d like to welcome George’s mother, his brothers and sisters and extended family to this commemoration. At this sad time we also remember George’s late father Tommy and his late brother Patrick.
On the 28th of May, 34 years ago, George and his comrade Pop Maguire were killed on Active Service in their own city of Derry. They were killed by British soldiers who had no right – then as now – to be on Irish soil. These two young men like many others took up arms against the occupying forces and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They died so we might be free.
These men, like many other men and women, watched as the Parachute Regiment shot innocent people who were marching for civil rights in a peaceful demonstration on Bloody Sunday in Derry City. The Commander-in-Chief of that regiment should not be welcomed in any part of Ireland until they take their forces of occupation home to England with them. No handshake or head-bowing to those who still hold this island in a grip of sectarian bigotry, to those who divide our people to ensure their domination of Ireland continues. I reference Pearse’s speech over the grave of the old Fenian himself, O’Donovan Rossa: ‘They have bought half of us and they are trying to intimidate the other half’. Comrades, these men weren’t intimidated and we should not be intimidated either.
George was an ordinary lad who was put in an extraordinary situation. He played a bit of football and an odd game of snooker. However, on witnessing the murder of his own people, on his own streets, he took the courageous step forward and joined Na Fianna Eireann at the age of 15 years. Within one year he had progressed and became a member of the IRA. George was a well-known figure within the Creggan and farther afield. He was involved in many attacks on Crown Forces and was a fearless Óglach who quickly gained a reputation for being a dependable, reliable asset to the Derry Brigade.
George being George he was a bit of a devil and full of the craic, quick to laugh he would be involved in the slagging and mixing, keeping everyone’s spirits up in harder times. George and his family were no strangers to hard times. The McBrearty home was the most raided house in the North. After he was interned, upon his release he reported back on Active Service and went on the run. When I first met George it was in that famous house Slieve Snaught Letterkenny. Another comrade and myself were in need of R&R and a bit of a feed. This we received gladly from George’s sister Betty, and others who were in the house that day.
Just before George was killed, Slieve Snaught was the centre of activity for the whole northwest. It was 1981 and the Hungerstrikes were raging. George was going into Derry to remain for a few weeks. He lifted his hand and pointed to another comrade and myself and announced ‘these lads are coming in with us’. Of course we were delighted and jumped at the chance. But big brother Dan overruled this. We went in a different direction. I would have gladly stood shoulder to shoulder with George on that day. However this was not to be. That was the last time George was to cross the border as himself and Óglach Charles Maguire were shot dead while engaging the SAS in Derry, on the 28th of May 1981.
Not for one minute would I dare to speak for these Óglachs but this I do know, they did not give their lives for this. They gave their lives for Irish freedom and a 32-County Republic, as envisaged by those brave men of 1916. Friends and comrades these are the same calibre of men and women as the men and women of 1798, 1916 and 1981. We respect and honour them with dignity and pride.
We will not allow them to be forgotten or misrepresented, the crowd here this evening is testament to that fact. The only honourable course we as republicans can take is to continue to pursue the goal for which these Óglachs died, a 32-County socialist republic as read from the steps of the GPO in Dublin in 1916 by PH Pearse. What Pearse read aloud that day is as relevant and as honourable a cause now as it was 99 years ago.
We salute you brave comrades. We will always remember you with love and pride and one day comrades we will be free. And when that day comes a fitting tribute will have been paid to all those who gave their lives for Irish freedom and a tribute to all those mothers like Bridie who live their lives brokenhearted, but solid in support of this struggle. Without them there would have been no struggle. They were and are today the backbone of the struggle for freedom in Ireland. Your grief and sacrifice is not lost on us.
We the republican family thank you Bridie and all the mothers who stood full square behind their families and took the brunt of the blows without one word of complaint. Your son Bridie, and what he stood for, will not be forgotten. Finally, thankyou very much to the McBrearty family for allowing us to share this commemoration with you today. Slan.
Frankie Quinn is an ex-POW and lifelong republican from East Tyrone. A founding member of the PH Pearse Society Galbally-Cappagh, he is the current Vice-Chair of the 1916 Societies
A powerful night and a fitting tribute to the lads Jim. Frank’s speech was well received